The United Nations human rights office today expressed concern over violence in Sirte, Libya, involving militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“It seems that fighting erupted in the city after a local imam, Khaled Ben Rajab al-Ferjani, known for his vocal opposition to ISIL, was shot dead on 10 August. He is reported to have been killed while resisting abduction by ISIL fighters,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was told by local residents that most civilians had fled the area, which was reportedly indiscriminately shelled by ISIL forces by the morning of 13 August. The total number of fatalities is currently not known, but unconfirmed estimates received by UNSMIL range between 4 and 38, and at least 16 men were captured.
Both UNSMIL and OHCHR have previously expressed deep concern at apparent reprisals carried out by ISIL militants against civilians in Libya whom they perceive to be opposing them. In July, the group deliberately destroyed at least seven homes in Sirte and also summarily executed a man they accused of “treason,” whose body was put on public display.
“In April 2015, the bodies of three members of a prominent family in Derna were also put on public display. During its control of Derna, which lasted until June this year, ISIL also carried out at least four public summary executions and an amputation. It seems that the public flaunting of these murders is intended to send a message to anyone challenging ISIL in Libya,” Mr. Colville said.
In addition, he stated, groups affiliated with ISIL have also been targeting individuals on the basis of their religion. In April 2015, one such group released a video showing the execution of at least 28 Christians in two separate incidents in Libya while in February, 21 mostly Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIL, which continue to commit serious human rights violations.